Work hard, stay grateful, remain humble: Shelly Gomez of Latino Alliance helps business, community
Shelly Gomez welcomes the opportunity to connect the Latinx community, from Latinx students at Sonoma State University to Latinx business owners throughout Rohnert Park and Cotati, as well as families and friends.
As the race and ethnicity program coordinator at the HUB Cultural Center of Sonoma State University, Gomez designs and facilitates intersectional programs that support students of different ethnicities and identities.
Beyond that, she is a co-founder of the Latino Alliance. It is a group of Rohnert Park and Cotati Latinx business owners and community members using unique strategies to let customers know their doors are open.
“Building a team of support is essential at being successful. I see my job as identifying available resources,” said Gomez.
Gomez, 43, relies on creative thinking and her ability to connect with community resources to showcase available resources, tools, and contacts.
She and her partner, Latino Alliance co-founder Frankie Lemus, have assisted business owners with developing social media strategies in English and Spanish. At SSU, Gomez has organized programs to help Latinx faculty and students stay in touch through the academic year and beyond.
“The Latinx community benefits from developing solidarity and community events. Encouraging participation and volunteering provides ways for people to get to know and educate one another,” said Gomez.
As Gomez reaches out to business owners figuring out ways to build revenue during a pandemic and to students in navigating their first semester online, she is also learning.
“Listening to the multitude of worldviews is teaching me what’s working and what’s not. I hope to become even more skilled at providing spaces for others to be heard,” said Gomez.
Gomez said transitioning to remote learning and working has been challenging.
“Students are navigating these unprecedented times the best they can. I am amazed at their resilience. I am extremely grateful that our leadership continues to prioritize the well-being of our students and staff,” said Gomez.
Gomez noted the Latino Festival could not take place this year because of the pandemic.
“This was heartbreaking for so many of us. Last year the festival created an opportunity for local businesses and organizations to share space and connect with local residents, council members and community advocates,” said Gomez.
Gomez and Lemus took time in the summer and fall to develop a magazine to showcase local Latinx-owned businesses, the Latino Alliance Magazine - 2020.
“This magazine (is) an opportunity to not only market (local) businesses but also to honor Latinx Heritage Month. We (are taking) this opportunity to also share our deepest gratitude to our community supporters for their continued dedication and service to our organization and to also introduce our newest board members,” said Gomez.
The Latino Alliance Magazine - 2020 can be found in print at Oliver’s Markets locations, local restaurants, and digitally on the Latino Alliance’s Facebook page.
Blending business and culture, while removing obstacles
Developing an organization to solidify a Latinx network has long been a goal for Gomez. She grew up the child of two local business owners, Crucita Gomez and Rene Gomez, founders of Rohnert Park Transmissions.
As businesses came into Rohnert Park and Cotati, she saw that “some interpersonal connections between business owners, the two cities, and the community have been lost. I founded the Latino Alliance with Frankie to rebuild that,”
Currently, Gomez and Lemus are sharing news about ways for Latinx community members and business owners to communicate with Rohnert Park and Cotati city council members.
"We've brought Latino business owners and Latino community members together to talk to one another. (We’ve) encouraged them to work together to strengthen our community,” said Lemus.
After she and Lemus formally started the group as a nonprofit organization in May 2019, they coordinated with members and the city to hold Rohnert Park’s first Latino Festival in September 2019. The event, held at 500 City Center, featured live music, informational booths, a car show, Latinx food, and speeches by Windsor Vice Mayor Esther Lemus and Sonoma County District 3 Supervisor Shirlee Zane.